What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you think of holidays? Sunshine, beaches, a cool glass of wine?
Emails? Probably not.
But despite this 59% of people say they check emails or take work calls while on holiday – and I suspect the actual figures are even higher. Gone are the days of switching on your out of office on the Friday evening and not checking in until you’re back two weeks later.
And this continual availability is not only damaging our health, but also our relationships with those around us.
When my partner and I first got together around six years ago, we were offered a trip of a lifetime to Barbados for the cricket world cup. In my head I was planning two weeks of beach, sun, romance, oh yes, and a little cricket. But my partner being the director of a newly established law firm had other things on his mind. The itinerary was planned around wifi availability, UK business hours and mobile phone signal. At the time I was furious, but now as a freelancer, I find myself in the same boat. There’s never any real ‘off-time’ – and when there is, you feel guilty that you’re not being ‘on’.
So when in June this year we had a road trip around the south of France planned, I had to ask myself – would I want to look back on this holiday and remember endless searching for wifi cafes? (Not likely in remote, rural France), or arguing over who’s turn it was to use the phone charger? What could I do beforehand to make sure that I truly enjoyed the moment instead of having a constant niggle about what was going on in my world of work?
Here’s what I found helped:
1. Noting well in advance any deadlines due to fall during my holiday and making arrangements to complete the work ahead of time or delegate to someone else. Making it clear that I wouldn’t be available to discuss this work during my holiday was also key.
2. Planning our itinerary as much as possible ahead of time and going back to good old fashioned paper maps to plan our route and navigate – if you have to go online to check plans and routes, the temptation to check emails is always there.
3. Planning a few set times during the week when we would check emails and messages – as a freelancer being completely awol can mean missing out on work so I was realistic about this.
4. Making an agreement to leave phones at home when out at dinner. I think no more need be said.
5. Putting things in perspective. ‘If I don’t check my emails in the next couple of days, what is the worst that can happen?’ And is it worth affecting my relaxation and the happiness of my companions for?
Remember, holiday time is often sacred, rare time spent with loved ones, or valuable time spent in your own company. Taking time out from the technological frenzy we live in day to day is essential for your health, happiness and relaxation. So before you leave on your hols, make an anti- technology plan of action and stick to it!
Nutritionist, Health and Wellness Consultant